Celebrating the Bill of Rights, Part One: Join us as we celebrate Bill of Rights Day! September 25th is the day when Congress proposed the Bill of Rights, so we’re going to be learning some specifics about the Bill of Rights today! We’ll be talking about what things we believe the federal government can never touch, why they can’t touch those things, and more!

Air Date: 09/25/2018

On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Faith And The Culture

Rick:

Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture.  This is WallBuilders Live! Where we talk about today’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture. We’re always doing that from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.

We’re here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and the founder of WallBuilders. Tim Barton’s a national speaker and pastor, and president of WallBuilders. And I’m Rick Green, I’m a former Texas legislator.

You can find out more WallBuildersLive.com, that’s our radio site. You can get a list of our stations across the country where we can be heard. And you can also get archives of the programs. So, you can go back and listen if you missed some shows last week or last month. It’s all available right there at WallBuildersLive.com.

Then also be sure and visit WallBuilders.com for a lot of tools you can use to equip and inspire your family. And specifically, you’re going to want to go to WallBuilders.com and check out Constitution Alive. That’s the full program on the Constitution that will get you as a citizen equipped to understand where your freedoms are guaranteed in the Constitution and how to be active in the culture to preserve that Constitution.

So, today David, Tim, it’s Bill of Rights Day, September 25th, the big day when Congress actually proposed the Bill of Rights. So, we’re going to just dive into that today.

Tim:

Well, this is a great topic to talk about because certainly, as people who study history, you will remember that when the Constitution was done there were many men who would not sign the Constitution because they believed there weren’t enough restrictions on what the federal government could do. What they had seen from the tyranny of the King of England, really, the tyranny of most governments in the history of the world, is that governments tend to get very oppressive, and they start doing things they shouldn’t do, and they grow in power, and control, and the breadth of their reach of the things that they’re now claiming are under their jurisdiction. Which really, those are rights that should belong to the people.

The Federal Government Can Never Touch These Specific Items

Tim:

So, George Mason who became known as one of the fathers of the Bill of Rights because he’s one of the guys that although he helped form the Constitution, he wouldn’t sign it because there were not these specific limitations placed on the Constitution. So, the Bill of Rights were specifically a listing of things they said the federal government can never touch these specific items. And they even then in the Bill of Rights in the ninth and tenth amendment said, “We recognize there’s even more things than what we’ve just enumerated here, things that belong to the individuals, and the states.”

So, it really is significant for Americans to go back and look and say, “Okay, what are things that we believe in America the federal government can never touch and why can’t they touch those very things?

Rick:

And in fact, Tim, if I could I’ll just read from the preamble to the Bill of Rights. Exactly what you just said. So, all across the the individual states there was a lot of concern in even adopting the constitution. So, at those conventions these debates happened, some of the greatest debates in American history, right there in Virginia. Patrick Henry on the side against ratifying the Constitution for the very reasons that you’re saying.

But here’s what they said what Congress said in its preamble to the Bill of Rights being proposed to the states. They said, “The conventions of a number of the states–” so they meant the individual conventions that were happening in each of the states. “The conventions of the number of states having at that time of their adopting the Constitution expressed a desire in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of powers that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added. And as extending the ground of public confidence in the government will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institutions.” Then it goes on to say that’s why we’re proposing these amendments.

To Make Sure There Isn’t Any Misconstruction

Rick:

So in other words they were saying, “Hey, everybody back home in the individual states that had these conventions, you said at these debates that you would like to see some more restrictive amendments to make sure it’s very, very, clear what the federal government can and can’t do. We’re going to propose some additional amendments to make sure that there’s no misconstruction.” Which, maybe today we need some more amendments to further clarify what the powers of the federal government should be. But that was what they proposed these amendments for.

David:

And let’s back up a little bit to even a better context. Because Tim put kind of a perspective on and, Rick, you did too. But let’s go back even to the time of the American Revolution. Because once an historical event is over and people look at it it seems to be really smooth, really easy, we were all there. We look at the American Revolution, wasn’t it great we were all patriots? No, time out. Only 25 percent of Americans even supported American independence. Twenty five percent opposed it. And 50 percent were, “We don’t care we just don’t want it to affect us.” When it came to actually participating and winning American independents only 8 percent of Americans did so.

So, historically, you had a small group of people really committed to see us be free. And now we look historically and say, “The patriots won the revolution.” Yeah, they did, but they had a whole lot of opposition from within. It wasn’t the smooth sailing that we see now. We forget about the 25,000 lives that were lost, which is a huge amount back then. And it’s the same with the Bill of Rights. When you come to ratifying the Constitution, we look at the Constitution and say, “What a great document. We’ve been now 231 years under this document. Everybody loves it.” No, at the time, that wasn’t it.

Tim:

And I would say not every American loves it today either.

David:

Well, that’s true.

We Forget it Was Supposed to Be Limited and Restricted

Tim:

So, every patriotic American should love the Constitution because of what it’s provided for America, right. The stability, the freedom, the prosperity, so many things we enjoy are a direct result of our form of government. But many Americans today despise the Constitution because they think it’s too restrictive, and it’s limiting, and it doesn’t let the federal government do what it should do. And they forget, well, it was supposed to be limiting and restricting.

But you’re right – if you back up in time there were a lot of Americans at the time of the writing of the Constitution who did not want the Constitution and thought there were some terrible things in the Constitution.

David:

Well, let’s just take some of the states where we know the Founding Fathers that people will recognize. Let’s take Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, you’ve got John Hancock, and you’ve got Sam Adams, and you’ve got John Adams, and you’ve got all these great Founding Fathers. And Massachusetts, they nearly did not ratify the Constitution. As a matter of fact, there was a– they ratified the constitution by a one vote margin. Now, what’s significant is you had 20 preachers at the convention that supported the Constitution and they all voted for the Constitution–

Tim:

At the convention in Massachusetts?

David:

At the Massachusetts ratification convention. If it had not been for those 20 preachers being there, the patriots would have rejected the Constitution in Massachusetts. In North Carolina, it was almost the same thing. It was a razor thin vote. Let’s go to Virginia. You’ve got James Madison, you’ve got Thomas Jefferson, you’ve got George Washington, you’ve got Richard Henry Lee, you’ve got all these great Virginia patriots and Virginia almost did not ratify the Constitution. Even though George Washington is the president of the convention, the state nearly rejected it and it was because we don’t want a big central government. We want government to be local.

Debate at the Convention

David:

And this debate actually happened at the Constitutional Convention. Tim, you pointed out a lot of those guys didn’t sign. There are 55 delegates who who wrote the Constitution, but 16 of them did not sign it. And people like Richard Henry Lee, and Elbridge Gerry, people like George Mason, they went back to their states and said, “Guys, do not sign this because the government might grow beyond what we want. We have no limits on the government.”

And people like James– and James Madison, let’s be clear, James Madison who today websites and professors say he’s the father of the Bill of Rights, that’s nonsense. James Madison was adamantly opposed to adding a Bill of Rights. He did not want one. He said, “Guys, the Constitution only lets the federal government do 15 things. It’s all written out. It’s really clear the government’s not going to do more than that.”

So, they said, “Well, we want a document that says what the government can’t do, that it’s limited.” And you had Madison saying, “You don’t need that. We’ve only told the government it can do 15 things that are enumerated powers. So, you really did, back at the time, you had a split America over whether we should have a Bill of Rights and leading Founding Fathers like James Madison did not want a Bill of Rights. And you had leading Founding Fathers like Sam Adams, and John Hancock, and John Adams, who wanted a Bill of Rights. So, you really had a polarized nation back there at the time that we came up with this document.

Rick:

And even getting the Bill of Rights adopted, there were 12 originally proposed, right? And only 10 of the 12 actually got ratified.

David:

Actually, there were more than that because what happened was all these states, they said, “Alright, we conditionally ratified the Constitution in Massachusetts, it passed by one vote, here’s the deal – we’re sending a list of amendments to the Congress. We want you to add these amendments.” So, some states sent as many as 19 amendments.

Rick:

Wow.

Lists of Amendments

David:

When you got there, you had a list– I think six states sent lists of amendments that they wanted added to the Constitution. So, when you take all those numerous amendments that came out of the six states they eventually boiled them down to 12. And you have the First Amendment which includes five rights in the First Amendment, so they combined some things. Some of them were repetitious. The Second Amendment, a lot of the states wanted limitations, “The government can’t do anything with our guns.” And a lot of states wanted protection for conscience etc..

So, when you take all of those literally dozens of suggestions you it boil down, Rick, as you said, to 12. And then they send it to the 13 states and the states have to ratify and the states chose 10 of the 12 initially. Back in 1992 they ratified one more of those original 12 amendments and that became the 27th Amendment.

Tim:

Well, and also, so you’re saying the First Amendment included five specific rights and freedoms and we’ll talk about that in a minute.

Rick:

Yeah.

Tim:

But that wasn’t the first of the 12, right?

David:

Yeah that was the Third Amendment.

Rick:

That’s right. That was the third.

Tim:

Of the 12 that was number three. So, they didn’t adopt the first two. They they adopted numbers three through 12, but that became our ten amendments in the Bill of Rights. Which is what then was the addition to the Constitution once those were ratified.

Not a Ranking of Priorities

David:

By the way, which is always funny, because I hear people say, “Hey, freedom of religion, the Founding Fathers put that first in the Bill of Rights.” No, actually that’s the third–

Rick:

Actually, they didn’t.

David:

–it was not.

Rick:

That’s right. But the Founding Fathers didn’t think in terms of what’s first, second, third, fourth, eighth, 10th, or 12th. They thought in terms of what the government is not going to be allowed to do.

Rick:

Right, right.

David:

So, guns, and regulating guns, government can’t do that. Or taking our rights of conscience, they can’t do that. Or making us have a trial without a jury, they can’t do that. Those are all really, really, really, huge things. So, there’s not a ranking of priorities of what’s more important than anything else. It’s a listing of what the federal government’s not supposed to regulate, and touch, and control, or inhibit the citizens from being able to enjoy their right to exercise.

Rick:

Alright, guys, we’re going to get into the specifics when we come back. Stay with us. We’re going take a quick break, folks. It’s Bill of Rights Day, September 25th. This is the day that the Bill of Rights was proposed by Congress – not ratified. So, it wasn’t in the Constitution yet. But it was proposed by Congress and sent to those 13 states to ratify. Stay with us. We’ll be right back on WallBuilders Live.

This Precarious Moment Book

David:

This is David Barton. I want to let about a brand new book we have called This Precarious Moment, Six Urgent Steps That Will Save You, Your family, and Our Country. Jim Garlow and I have co-authored this book and we take six issues that are hot in the culture right now.

Issues that we’re dealing with, issues such as immigration, race relations, our relationship with Israel, the rising generation Millennials, and the absence of the church in the culture wars, and where American heritage is, our godly heritage. We look at all six of those issues right now that are under attack and we give you both Biblical and historical perspective on those issues that provide solutions on what each of us can do right now to make a difference.

These are all problems that are solvable if we’ll get involved. So you can grab the book This Precarious Moment and find out what you can do to make a difference. This Precarious Moment is available at WallBuilders.com.

Rick:

Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live. Bill of Rights Day today, September 25th. We’re celebrating the anniversary of when Congress proposed 12 amendments to the states to be ratified. Only 10 of the 12, as David and Tim pointed out in the previous segment, got ratified initially. And then 200 years later another one got ratified. That was the second one that had been proposed. It’s now the Twenty Seventh Amendment.

By the way, if you want more detail on all of this, Constitution Alive is available at WallBuilders.com right now. That program actually takes you into Independence Hall where we teach the Constitution. It also takes you inside the WallBuilders library where David pulls all kinds of original documents off the shelves and shares with you. So, check out Constitution Alive there on WallBuilders.com.

And at the end of the program we’ll give you information on how you can host a Constitution Alive class in your church, community, or wherever you would like to do that. We’d love to see you help teach other people the things you’re going to be learning today on the program and also throughout that Constitution Alive program.

Multiple Protections

Rick:

Alright, David, Tim, Bill of Rights Day. We talked about how the Bill of Rights initially came about, the discussion about the Bill of Rights even while the Constitution was being ratified. And we got it boiled down to ten amendments and as you said, there’s multiple protections in most of these amendments. The first has five of those. The fourth, fifth, and six, all have multiple areas of due process. How do you guys want to do this? Do we want to just go through each amendment one at a time, go one through ten?

David:

Well, let’s, before we do that, let’s go back and say, “Okay, they came through all this controversy, they came through all of this opposition one with another, they came through all the fighting and they got it done. And, for example, James Madison, there at the Virginia Convention he was opposed to adding the Bill of Rights, but then it comes time to elect people to go to Congress. And in Congress they’re going to look at adding amendments because all of these conditional things.

So, here’s James Madison and they want to send him to Congress, but they don’t want to send somebody there who doesn’t want a Bill of Rights. So, what happens is Patrick Henry, and George Mason, and these other guys sit down with him and say, “Look, we’ll support you going to Congress, but you’re going to have to pick up this fight for the Bill of Rights and help us with it there. And he agreed to, he didn’t think it was necessary, he thought, again, the government was limited.

So, they all 100 percent agreed that the federal government should be limited. Now they differed on how to get there. Madison thought the enumerated powers is plenty. And Mason, and Henry, and those other guys, said, “No, we need a Bill of Rights. They all agreed the government should be limited. So, James Madison gets there and he is one of the guys who helps look at all the versions out there, and he introduces some versions, and other people did as well. So, he becomes an influence.

But it’s significant that on the day that Congress finished all their debates on the Bill of Rights. And by the way, it was about six months from the time they introduced these Bill of Rights until they worked through all the committees and they have all the floor debates on them. It takes them about six months to come up with those 12 amendments that they submitted to the states.

On That Day

David:

So, on the day that they did that, if you go to the records of Congress which are online you can read all the debates. You get there, you find that on the day that they completed the Bill of Rights, and they got these 12 amendments ready to ship to the states for their approval, or at least to look at and see if they want to approve, it’s significant what they did at that point in time. Led by Roger Sherman who helped frame the Bill of Rights, but he’s the only Founding Father to sign all four founding documents, third most active guy at the Constitutional Convention. You get Roger Sherman, you get Elias Boudinot, who’s the president of Congress. He was George Washington’s boss in the last years the Revolution, etc..

These guys stand up and say, “You know, we finished the Bill of Rights, we need to ask President Washington to call a national day of prayer and thanksgiving. This is such a big deal.” So, Congress unanimously voted, the day they finished the Bill of Rights, they sent a request to President Washington to call the nation to a time of thanksgiving. And the president did. And that became the first federal Thanksgiving proclamation. Done by George Washington 1789. And it’s significant that the very first precedent for a federal day of Thanksgiving was to thank God for the Bill of Rights. And that was one thing that Congress was unanimous on is we all want to thank God that we now have a listing of what the government cannot touch, cannot regulate.

That’s another tone to consider when we look at the Bill of Rights is this was a listing of rights for which they were thankful to God and for which they wanted the whole nation to join with them in thanking God.

From God – Not Government

Rick:

Well, it’s a good reminder of the entire Constitution, and our Declaration, and just the whole whole founding mindset of these freedoms coming from God – not from government. Because a lot of people, they think the Bill of Rights– they even use that terminology that we are given these rights in the First Amendment, or we’re given these rights in the in the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. So, what a great reminder that the Constitution doesn’t give you any rights.

David:

Let’s set the tone for this because the Constitution was built on the six principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Founding Fathers acknowledged that, courts acknowledged that. Declaration is the foundation for the Constitution. And the declaration, there are three of the six key principles that go to this concept of rights. Those three principles, the Declaration acknowledges there is a Creator, number one. Number two – the Creator gave us a certain set of inalienable rights. Number three, the Declaration says government exists to protect inalienable rights. That’s the first primary purpose of government.

So, when you take that philosophy that, okay, there’s a God, God has given to individuals rights. And third, is government protects them – doesn’t regulate those rights. It has to leave them alone, it doesn’t belong to government, those rights come from God to man. That’s the premise on which they did the Bill of Rights. So, these were all considered to be specific rights that came from God to every single individual.

I’ll just say right up front – an inalienable right, we don’t get it because we have a Constitution, we get an inalienable right because we’re human. These are rights that God gave to us. If you live in Iran, God gave you these rights. Now, your government won’t let you practice them. If you live in Russia, you’re given these rights. If you live in Somalia, if you live in the Philippines, God gave you these rights. Now, your government may not protect them. In America, we said, “Not only did God give us these rights, but government was instituted to protect these rights. That’s first purpose of government.” So, that’s the philosophy.

Not Government Concessions

David:

Also to carry into this, this is not government concessions on what it will let the citizens do. This is government acknowledgment of what God told citizens they have the right to do. And that’s a huge, huge, understanding that needs to be carried whenever you look at the Bill of Rights.

Rick:

Well, David, it’s the heart of the American value system. It’s what made us unique and different, it’s the secret sauce. Without that understanding and that philosophy you lose the very liberties that we say we care so much about. But this is essential to having that mindset going into this. If we really want to protect freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, and our right to keep and bear arms, and all these liberties that we love so much, we’ve got to start with that basic philosophy of where they actually come from.

I can’t remember his exact quote, but Reagan, Ronald Reagan, had a great quote on this where he would talk about a lot of the freedoms in our Constitution are also listed in the Soviet Union in the Russian Constitution. The difference is that they say that comes from government and we say it comes from God. And that’s why they can then take it away over there from government. So, it is a very, very, different result when we start with that philosophy that you just mentioned.

Quick break. We’ll be right back. I have a feeling we’re going to have to turn our celebration of the Bill of Rights into two days of celebration because we’re just now going to be getting to go through those Bill of Rights in our final segment. So, don’t miss tomorrow where we’ll be diving into this as well. Stay with us. You’re listening to WallBuilders Live.

Join Us In Israel!

Hey guys what are you doing January 28th through February 7th? If you said you don’t know, let me give you an idea. We are going to Israel. Rick Green, my dad, David Barton, Tim Barton, our families are going and we would love for you to go with us. We are going to the Holy Land if you’ve ever been to Israel this is something as a Christian that will make you forever read your bible differently.

To see where Jesus walked, where He lived, where He did miracles, where so much of the Bible took place. If you’ve ever read through the Bible and you’ve given it a mental picture, the mental picture will not do justice of what happens when you’re actually on the ground. If you’ve ever thought about the story of David and Goliath and you’ve envisioned what it looks like, we’re going to go to the actual field where it took place.

There are so many things that you will see that literally makes the Bible come to life. In fact, that’s the name of the tour group we’re going with is The Bible Comes to Life. Go to CMJacksboro.com. You can click on the link, it has an Israel itinerary, all kinds of details. Hope to see you on this trip this coming year.

Rick:

We’re back on WallBuilders Live. It’s Bill of Rights Day, September 25th, the day that Congress proposed the Bill of Rights to the states. So, we’re doing a special offering of constitutional knowledge today and tomorrow, so get that constitutional education. And be sure and go to WallBuilders.com and get Constitution Alive if you want to dive even further into it.

Guys, we’ve laid the foundation of what led to the Bill of Rights. Let’s try to get through maybe the First Amendment today and then tomorrow we can do the rest. But I have to make a confession here. When I was in the legislature I didn’t know much at all about these constitutional protections and where they were.

And I’d seen a poll that barely half of Texans could name even one freedom out of the First Amendment. Ninety five percent of Texans could not name two. And I thought that was terrible. And then I tried to name the five freedoms out of the First Amendment and could not do it. I was a legislator, a lawyer, Political Junkie, live, breathe, and eat, this stuff and couldn’t do it. And that was 18 years ago. That’s what got me passionate about studying these things and getting other people to study these things as well.

So, David, thank you for really renewing interest in the Constitution for literally millions of people around this country. WallBuilders has been essential in reigniting interest in learning these things. So, just to get to share these principles out of the First Amendment. And then tomorrow the other parts of the Bill of Rights is really, really, cool.

Let’s Go to the National Archives

David:

Let’s do this real quick. If you go to the National Archives and look at the Bill of Rights, the actual handwritten document they did, there are 12 amendments there. So, let’s, real quick, the first one that they wrote is it deals with representation in Congress. It says, okay, for every 30,000 people you get to have a congressman and it talks about the representa–  that one did not get ratified. So, that’s the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights that was proposed – it didn’t get ratified. The Second Amendment–

Tim:

Which actually is similar to language–

David:

It is.

Tim:

–already in the Constitution, by the way.

David:

It clarified some of the numbers in the Constitution and that’s since been changed even after that. But that was their First Amendment because this is something they thought ought to be changed in the Constitution. So, the second one that they proposed in the Bill of Rights says, “No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect until an election of representatives shall have intervened.” So, if Congress gives itself a pay raise it doesn’t go into effect until they face the people in that pay raise.

Tim:

Meaning the next– after the next election.
Eventually Ratified in 1992!

David:

After the next election. So, if Congress today voted themselves a pay raise it could not go into effect until after this next election that’s coming up. And we would see how many we would throw out of office. If we threw them out of office they would know the people didn’t want this. That’s what became the twenty seventh amendment. It was eventually ratified in 1992. It floated around out there, never got three fourths of the states at a fast enough rate, they almost had three fourths then we added more states, they needed more. So, it finally got ratified in ‘92. That is now the 27th Amendment.

So, the actual First Amendment as it appears, Rick, you said there were five freedoms there, and those five freedoms, here it is. Reading the First Amendment it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” So, number– and by the way–

Rick:

Wait a minute, you skipped a part, David, you skipped a part. You skipped that part about separation of church and state. Um…

David:

Oh, I did skip that. You’re right.

Rick:

Oh, wait, I don’t see it it’s not in my copy of the Constitution. Y’all better read from your copy. I’m sure it’s in there.

David:

Well, see, that’s the reason I skipped it because it’s actually not there. I know that’s a rule. Do you know that two out of three Americans think that that phrase is in the First Amendment.

Rick:

Wow.

Let’s Understand This

David:

And this is why we have Bill of Rights Day to say it’s not there. And by the way, it says, “Congress shall not establish” – it doesn’t say a school board can’t have prayer, it doesn’t say a kid can’t say “God” at graduation, it doesn’t say you can’t have a nativity scene in a city park. It says Congress can’t make that law.

Tim:

And this is something, by the way, remember the reason they wrote this is they’re saying these are things that government can never interfere with. The government can never interfere with the freedom of religion, our free exercise of religion. The government can never interfere with our freedom of speech. They can’t interfere with our ability to assemble, or petition, or the freedom of the press. Those are five things the government cannot interfere with–

David:

The federal government.

Tim:

Federal government.

David:

Federal government.

Tim:

That’s exactly right. Which actually, probably a great distinction we can make on tomorrow’s program talking more about the Bill of Rights.

David:

So, those five freedoms Tim just listed, those are the five in the First Amendment that only one out of 1,000 Americans can name. We need to be able to name those five freedoms Tim just went through.

Celebrating the Bill of Rights, Part One

Rick:

Alright, we’re going to dive further into this tomorrow. The reason for this is September 25th is the day that the Congress proposed the Bill of Rights to the states. So, this is Bill of Rights Day. We’re going to extend our Bill of Rights Day to tomorrow as well, so don’t miss that program.

Find out more at WallBuilders.com where you can get the Constitution Alive program. And actually, if you’d like to coach a class, if you’d like to lead a Constitution, host a Constitution class, at your church, or your home, or your tea party, or whatever group you’d like to do it, go to RickGreen.com today and sign up on that e-mail list for more information and we would love to coach you through that and help you set up a class in your community. So check that out today as well.

We’ll have links today at WallBuildersLive.com. Don’t miss tomorrow for our conclusion of our celebration of the Bill of Rights. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.